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Karen Robertson on Carlos at the Rose City Opener National Hunter Derby, Bend, Oregon (photo courtesy of Barbara Dudley).

TSB author Karen Robertson mulls over her upcoming date with The One and Only.

I started considered riding in a George Morris clinic in recent years. I know, I know… most of you are probably wondering why on earth I’d throw myself into the fire like that. And you’re right – I’m kind of freaking out about it. I’ve been freaking out for months! I haven’t ridden without stirrups enough and I’m not someone who rides five horses a day with a perfect position. George is sure to tell me my stirrup isn’t the correct angle on the ball of my foot, my leg isn’t strong enough, my hand isn’t educated enough, and that I sit “like a soup sandwich.” If I’m really lucky, he might even run behind me with a longe whip while I struggle to jump the water.

All that makes my heart race. Over the past five months I haven’t gone a day without thinking about the clinic. It truly scares me to put myself on a horse in front of George. He has laid eyes on every great hunter or jumper rider in the world for over six decades…and now he’s going to lay eyes on me.

Gulp.

I’m doing this for two reasons: My riding has in the last decade or so (I’m 39) begun resembling correct fundamentals to the extent that I think I can hold my own in this particular clinic that has a 1.00 meter group. And secondly, I helped George pen UNRELENTING, his no-holds-barred autobiography published last year. Working on UNRELENTING with George was like getting a whole new education on my best-loved sport. Just by being in George’s orbit, my ambition caught fire to work harder, be bolder, and take more risks. I’ve watched a dozen clinics first-hand over the past five years, and I know what he expects from riders. Now it’s my turn. And in one week, my friend and I will drive seven hours north with our horses to Potcreek Meadow Farm in Washington to ride with George.

K&GHM

Karen and George working on UNRELENTING in September 2015 (photo courtesy of Barbara Dudley).

Hang on, I had to put my head between my knees and breath deeply for a second there. Whew. Okay. I’m back.

What will it be like for me to ride with George? To feel those eyes that have an unmatched ability to instantly size up a rider and horse and then, in every pair’s case, fit a specific but well-worn key of wisdom into the right lock to help them reach their potential? What will it feel like to hear his deep, satisfied cry of “Thaaaaat’s it!” if I deliver what he commands?

I can only imagine how it will feel, but I hope that I have enough calm in my mind that I can absorb and enjoy the experience. No matter how well I ride each clinic day or what mistakes I ride through, the bottom line is that I will be riding with him: the timid boy too afraid to be off the lead line who became The Godfather of Hunt Seat Equitation and Chef d’Equipe of the Olympic Show Jumping Team; the reproach-impervious master who walks the fiery line between motivator and intimidator; the same coach who fifty years ago inspired a wily crew of American women to reach beyond their wildest dreams on the international show jumping stage and end the decades-long reign of European men.

George is also my dear friend. When I first met him in 2013, it took only hours for us to form a kinship that transcended the book and the horse world. With a kind of glee, we recognized in each other the same kind of professional ambition flanked by a sometimes reckless need for letting ourselves go and being wild. We grew close over the three years, and he listened kindly and gave me advice when I had hardship in my life. George shared his thoughts and feelings with me unreservedly, and I had the honor to hear hundreds of hours of stories from his life…only some of which made the book but which all fit together to help me understand how he wanted to tell his story. I was struck with awe and amusement in the moments I looked in at myself – sitting across from him at lunch or next to him as he drove the car or by his bedside interviewing him – when I wondered, “How did I get here? How is this my life? This is absolutely unbelievable that I get to be here.” It made me want to cry and laugh and collapse in wonder.

Riding with George will be a whole new relationship paradigm for us, and I will ride onto that grass field with no expectations for special treatment. I know he will measure me in a new way: as a rider and horsewoman rather than a writer and a friend. I’m a little afraid that he might lose respect for me if I’m not a sharp enough rider, but I hope so completely that this experience will bring us even closer.

This is scary, to take this risk. But sometimes you say yes to scary and the rewards are better than any ordinary day ever could be.

When I asked my childhood show jumping heroes during interviews for UNRELENTING what it was like to have George take them to the ring when the stakes were high, they all said that their trust in George and his belief that they could win made them feel like they could jump anything – A house! The moon! Besides the incredible learning opportunities, and taking to heart the critical comments (of which there are bound to be many), what I really want to feel in the clinic is just one moment where his voice lifts me up and I feel invincible.

 

K&C2

Karen and Carlos at HITS Coachella Desert Circuit, January 2016 (photo by Jose Ruiz).

Karen Robertson will return with a follow-up post after her clinic with George Morris.

 

UNRELENTING by George Morris with Karen Robertson, is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont. 

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GHM-interview

George Morris’s hugely anticipated autobiography UNRELENTING The Real Story: Horses, Bright Lights, and My Pursuit of Excellence has been officially out for about a month and is a red-hot bestseller. Morris knew that the release of the book, within which he reveals the private side he’s long kept hidden, would stir the big ol’ pot that is the equestrian world. “For an intensely private person like me, it wasn’t an easy choice to publish such intimate details of my life,” he says. “If there are people that can’t handle the truth, well…”

In this recent interview, he shared a little about what he thinks his new book means for his legacy as the Godfather of American equestrianism.

Q: While you’ve written many articles and several books on horsemanship and equitation over the years, UNRELENTING is the first time you “get personal” and share the “Real George Morris” with the world. What did you find fun about the book-writing process this time around?

GHM: Well, what was fun was Karen Terry, my ghostwriter. She was really the perfect person to help me with the book because she looks like a party girl but then she has this other side where she is very organized—amazingly organized. And very capable. That’s a little how I go through life, too: I have these two different sides. So that was fun.

Q: You say you have “two different sides.” I’d be willing to bet most people in the horse industry only know of the “one side” of George Morris—your publicly traded persona that hinges on your well-known roles as demanding coach, unabashed critic, and absolute perfectionist. What do you really think of this notorious side of yourself?

GHM: You know, I never think of my “George Morris” horse-world person because on a daily basis I’m interested in riding and teaching, and day after day I do it all over the world—that’s what I’m into. I have to sort of look from afar at this persona that’s “happened” because that’s not really what I think about when I get up every morning in Texas or Belgium or riding horses in Wellington.

Q: What made you think it was time to tell the world about the “other side” of yourself?

GHM: I have had a very interesting life because I was the least likely to succeed. My personal identity when I was a young child was very, very complicated—I was very insecure and very much a mess. I was the least likely rider at Ox Ridge Hunt Club to succeed. I was very, very timid and stiff. I was not a natural. Then I was also dealing with the sexual identity situation. So you know, I was really a pathetic creature who went very far. And now that the book is finished, if there are people that can’t handle the truth, well…I feel I’m laying it out there maybe to help people. In fact, I’ve already told a couple of young guys who are just coming out to read my book because it will be good for them. It is a very difficult situation for people at that age. I look at it this way: If my story, which is an egotistical, self-interest story, is boring, that’s all right. There are some titillating tidbits in there that people will like, anyway. But it’s going to maybe help people who don’t have the best ability to ride; it’s going to help people who had a very difficult childhood emotionally; it’s going to maybe help people who have struggled with their sexual identity. I figure, like always in my teaching, I am trying to help people. Not that I want to help people…not that I get up every morning and I’m Mother Teresa…but it seems to be my destiny, because I was the least likely to succeed and did, to try to help other people. So that’s the way I look at talking about my other side in this book.

Q: But the “George Morris Mystique” has developed over time and people know you for your desire for perfection. Do you feel like admission of your imperfection and humanity will harm your influence?

GHM: No, no, no, no, no, no. Because my body of life’s work is set. Something could scandalize it, which wouldn’t ruin it. Or something could embellish it, which wouldn’t embellish it much. You know, I’m going to be 78 next week, and what’s done is done. That’s the way I look at this book. Maybe I wouldn’t have written this when I was 60, let alone 40 or 20.

Q: While your relationships have never been secret, UNRELENTING is the most public “coming out” you’ve ever had. Is it because you feel the world is finally ready to deal more frankly with homosexuality?

GHM: Oh yes, there’s no question this is my most public coming out. I think the world being more accepting probably colored it but I’d say that if I was going to write this book, I was going to be very honest. Whether I’m right or wrong—I’m a very honest person. My family name is Frank, and that’s suited my grandfather and suited my family and myself; we’re very frank people. And if I’m going to write this book, I’m going to be frank, and it’s not that nobody in the world knew that I was gay—everybody in the world knew that I was gay. Its’ not like it is a big shock to people. I think that some of the specifics to certain people will be a shock. And, you know, I could write a really x-rated book. I could shock them a lot more. WAY more. So I decided if I was going to do this book about my life, well…this is my life.

Q: UNRELENTING progresses systematically through every decade of your existence, reliving the equestrian high life and world of competitive riding through the years. You reconstruct so many details from so many different pivotal moments—what do you hope sharing a history you know very intimately will provide readers?

GHM: Well that’s the bulk of the interest to the public, if they are horse people. Bill Steinkraus is the only real living person who would have the same length of intimate connection with this level of the sport since the 1940s. You know all the ones before that are dead or almost dead, and I’ve been in the trenches since the forties. I’m in the trenches tomorrow. And in the trenches at the highest point of the sport—have been since I was ten. So from a historical perspective I will stand behind this book. From the personal side, if there are criticisms and dart-throwers—fine. If they say this is a boring, egotistical diary of George Morris—fine. But from a historical perspective, if nothing else, this is a great book.

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

Q: 2016 marks a year when you’ve altered your usual schedule of clinicing and are instead focusing on a few individual students, as well as coaching the Brazilian show jumping team. What inspired this change?

GHM: Since I retired as chef d’equipe, in fact my whole life, I’ve given just massive numbers of clinics every year. And I love clinics, and I’m excellent at clinics. But the last couple of years I did 43 or 44 and my instinct said, “Listen, you’ve just got to stop and go back to taking on a couple of private people, go to the horse shows, have horses in training for a consistent length of time.” And then I’ve got this Brazilian thing through the Olympics. No, I’m just taking a deep breath from clinics. I will always do clinics, whether I do 44 a year or whether I do 6 or whether I do 2. It’s just my instinct said to stop for a while and do something different because I was on the airplane every Thursday and coming back late every Sunday or Monday. And clinics make you teach a lot of people a little bit, and this way I’m teaching a few people a lot—so it’s different. It’s not that I don’t like clinics; it has nothing to do with that. Next year we might be having a conversation and maybe I’ll do the 44 clinics again. I don’t know.

Q: Do you see yourself receding from the front lines? Do you desire to find a quieter lifestyle in the years ahead?

GHM: Listen: I am interested in the horse world and chasing men. That’s all I’m interested in. That’s all I’ve ever been interested in.

 

UNRELENTING by George H. Morris with Karen Robertson Terry is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information

 

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EC DVDs HERE

 

TSB is thrilled to announce the release of seven fabulous new DVD programs in conjunction with the amazing online riding and horsemanship education portal EquestrianCoach.com. These DVDs feature the best in riding and horsemanship instruction from legendary horsemen George Morris and Bernie Traurig, and USEF “R”-rated hunter and hunter seat equitation judge Cynthia Hankins.

George Morris

George Morris

What’s new from George Morris?

Teaching and Training the American Way (CLICK TO ORDER)

Spend an hour with former Chef d’Equipe of the US Show Jumping Team George Morris and demonstration riders Cynthia Hankins and Darragh Kenny as they illustrate the most fundamental aspects of the American Hunter/Jumper Forward Riding System, a system endorsed and taught by George and advocated by the USHJA Trainer Certification Program. Includes a bonus video, “The Roots of Forward Riding in America,” where George introduces the American style of riding and its evolution.

Dressage for Jumpers (CLICK TO ORDER)

Join George as he demonstrates his favorite dressage exercises as they apply to jumping sports. In this schooling session, George uses his system of training on the flat and over fences to produce a relaxed, supple, and attentive equine partner.

Bernie Traurig

Bernie Traurig

And what do we get from Bernie Traurig?

The American Hunter/Jumper Forward Riding System–The Complete Series (CLICK HERE TO ORDER)

Acclaimed rider, coach, and clinician Bernie Traurig presents a unique DVD series explaining the building blocks of the American Hunter/Jumper Forward Riding System, a system endorsed and taught by George Morris and advocated by the USHJA Trainer Certification Program. In Developing Perfect Position; Fundamentals of Flatwork; and The Controls of the Horse, Bernie shares step-by-step exercises, on the flat and over fences, that are proven to bring success. Available as a complete series or individually—the complete series includes a special introductory DVD on the history of the sport.

Cynthia Hankins

Cynthia Hankins

What about Cynthia Hankins?

Form Follows Function with Cynthia Hankins (CLICK TO ORDER)

First on the flat and then over fences, USEF “R”-rated judge Cynthia Hankins discloses the common position faults she encounters and presents the correct, classical form of the American Hunter/Jumper Forward Riding System, endorsed and taught by George Morris and advocated by the USHJA Trainer Certification Program.

About EquestrianCoach.com

EquestrianCoach.com is a phenomenal online portal to a broad selection of extremely well demonstrated equestrian tips, techniques, and sport-specific know-how. The subscription-based site was created to make quality education accessible and affordable to every equestrian, regardless of their background, their level, or their geographic location. It rounds up the most talented equestrians on the planet, captures their expertise, and delivers it directly to you on your computer or mobile device in high definition. CHECK IT OUT HERE

TSB is excited to team up with EquestrianCoach.com to bring you excellent instruction from the world's top equestrians!

TSB is excited to team up with EquestrianCoach.com to bring you excellent instruction from the world’s top equestrians!

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“The three men walk to the stable tents just shy of four in the morning. The blackness of the sky starts to erode but their vision is still obscured by the fog curling up between the green mountains. When they reach their barn’s aisles of horses, the horses whinny and snort; their new company surprises them from their sleep. The three men begin emptying, scrubbing, and refilling the horses’ water buckets. One man tosses each horse four thick flakes of grassy hay, still a lively green from its time in the hay fields twenty miles away from the horse show.

“‘¡Eh! ¡Francisco! ¿Dónde están las tijeras?’ calls Carlos. Francisco grabs the scissors from inside the tack room and tosses them over the stall wall to Carlos. Carlos cuts the baling twine on a new bale of hay and continues handing out the morning ration. Manuel starts giving out the pre-measured grain to each horse, complete with joint supplements and cherry-flavored electrolytes.

“At 4:15 the three of them begin prepping four of the horses for the 5 a.m. lesson that the barn trainer has scheduled for some of the teenage girls showing later that day. They groom each horse to a brilliant sheen with curry mitts and soft horse-hair brushes, and put on their saddles. They check that all of the leather attachments are clean and in good condition and then walk the horses a mile down to the warm-up rings. They talk to each other and watch the pink diffuse across the sky.” —from “The Invisible Workers” by Lauren Duffy (http://college.holycross.edu, 2010)

“Seven a.m. The sun is cresting over the hills, filling the stable yard with soft light. The green grass in the quaintly fenced pastures is idyllic and inviting. Sparrows trill noisily from the eaves, but inside the barn the horses are quiet. Felipe*, a short but solidly built Hispanic man with close-cropped hair and kind eyes, glances briefly toward the grass as he crosses the gravel parking lot. He smiles, crows’ feet furrowing as he reveals crooked but bright white teeth. Felipe doesn’t stop walking; there’s no time to fully appreciate the perfect spring morning. He is focused on the seemingly endless list of chores he must squeeze into the ten-hour workday ahead. The prospect doesn’t faze him. While the work is challenging, Felipe loves the horses.

“’You need a lot of discipline, and I enjoy that,’ he says in rapid-fire Spanish. ‘Sometimes they don’t want to do what you ask. I like to try to figure out what they’re thinking.’” —from “El Poder del Immigrant” by Katy George (http://ethosmagonline.com, 2010)

“The fidgety thoroughbreds stick out their tongues and flap their lips as Pedro Esquibias squirts tubes of goopy medicine into their mouths.

“‘It tastes really bad,’ he says, wiping horse drool on his long-sleeved sweatshirt after Position A, a 3-year-old colt, gets a dose.

“Esquibias administers the medication each morning at 4:30 a.m. and again about six hours later, day after day. Days off come only once every couple of weeks in his role as stable foreman on the 35-person crew that works for trainer Richard Mandella and cares for 33 horses during a six-week stint at the Del Mar racetrack.

“All but a few of the workers have names like Jose, Pedro, Felipe and Margarita. The assistant trainer shouts instructions in Spanish. Latin tunes emanate from the overhead speakers.

“From Del Mar to Delaware and Kentucky to western Washington, racetrack backstretches are populated by workers from Mexico and Central and South American countries. The jobs range from the hotwalkers who lead horses around in a monotonous circle to the more experienced exercise riders who take the thoroughbreds for a spin on the track.” —from “A Fine Fit: Horsemen and Thoroughbreds” by Paula Lavigne, (http://sports.espn.go.com, 2009)

The Ultimate English/Spanish Dictionary for Horsemen/El Mejor Diccionario Para Equitadores Ingles/Espanol by Maria Belknap is now available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is always FREE.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER YOUR COPY WITH OVER 65,000 ENGLISH/SPANISH HORSE-RELATED WORDS AND PHRASES

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